All Black Willis to join Dragons

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The Independent Online

The former New Zealand hooker Tom Willis will join the Newport-Gwent Dragons after finishing the Chiefs' Super 14 campaign, according to reports in New Zealand.

The 29-year-old, who played five Tests for the All Blacks in 2002, is the latest player to leave New Zealand rugby since last year's World Cup. The utility back Isa Nacewa, who plays for the Blues, said earlier this week that he was joining Leinster; Jerry Collins, Daniel Carter and Troy Flavell have also been linked with moves abroad. Recent All Blacks Doug Howlett, Byron Kelleher, Anton Oliver and Carl Hayman are already with northern-hemisphere clubs.

On the pitch, the Super 14 leaders, the Crusaders, held off a gallant Blues effort to win 26-22 in Christchurch. The bonus-point win comes a week after the Crusaders suffered a shock loss to the Chiefs. The hooker, Corey Flynn, scored two tries for the home side and the replacement hooker, Ti'i Paulo, and the captain Richie McCaw also scored.

The Crusaders looked to be heading for a big win after they dominated the visitors in the first 20 minutes. But the Auckland-based Blues were unlucky not to come away with a victory after the touch judge missed the Crusaders wing Sean Maitland putting his foot into touch in the lead-up to Paulo's winning try.

"It got a bit frantic near the end," said McCaw, the All Black captain who is also a tempting target for European clubs. "I think both teams really tried to play and I guess to come out the right side of it is pretty pleasing. The opportunities we got we finished, and that's the key to games like this."

The fly-half Christian Lealiifano scored in the dying seconds to give the ACT Brumbies a 28-21 win over the Johannesburg-based Lions in Canberra. With the scores locked at 21-21 and the Brumbies' hopes of a semi-final place in the balance, Lealiifano burst through a tackle by one of the South African side's centres, Jannie Boschoff, to touch down under the posts.

"That was probably the ugliest win I've been part of for a while," the Brumbies captain, Stirling Mortlock, said. "It was good to get there in the end, but we made it tough on ourselves."

The last-placed Lions scored in the opening minute when Boschoff broke the line and offloaded to the flanker Cobus Grobbelaar, who scored beside the posts. Mortlock narrowed the gap to 7-3 with a penalty. Another penalty made it 7-6 before Mortlock scored and converted to make it 13-7 and send the Brumbies into the break looking dominant.

The Lions looked incapable of breaking the ACT line for all but the first two minutes, so it was a shock when they scored two converted tries in quick succession, 10 minutes into the second half. The full-back Earl Rose burst onto a quick ball from Walter Venter to touch down, then Louis Ludik put up a bomb which Rose collected for another converted try and a 21-13 lead.

The winger Mark Gerrard scored in the corner to get the Brumbies to within three points. The scores were even at 21-21 with 10 minutes remaining, as Gerrard kicked a simple penalty after the Lions were caught offside, and it looked like staying that way until the scrum-half Luke Holmes took a quick tap with seconds left and fed the ball to Lealiifano for the winner.

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